Activity 2: Storytelling
This activity will enhance students' understanding of First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture by introducing them to the importance of storytelling.
Specifically, students will:
- Listen to and then recall Inuit, Métis, or First Nations stories;
- Identify, describe and interpret important information in these stories;
- Create their own stories based on the formats discussed.
Subjects and Strands
This lesson plan can be used by teachers in all provincial and territorial grades 3-6 social studies classes; activities can be modified for age and ability. The main subjects are:
- First Nations, Métis and Inuit legends, stories and culture.
These activities will also help students develop basic Writing, Interpretation/Analysis skills.
Required Equipment and Materials
- Stories from different First Nations, Métis and Inuit groups (oral stories are best, either online or in person, but books can be substituted if necessary).
- Using Your Memory! (PDF 1.3 Mb) hand-out
- Computers with Adobe Flash, OR printed cards and information sheet (see printable instructions).
- Have the class play the Memory game either online or using the printed cards provided in the printable version.
- After students have played the game, hold a class discussion about the methods used to play it (e.g. did they choose cards at random or in sequence?) and the various items displayed on the cards in the game. The Description Sheet has additional information on each item.
- Begin a new discussion on the role that memory played in traditional storytelling. Note: First Nations, Métis and Inuit did not have written languages before the Contact period - all of their history and beliefs were passed from generation-to-generation through oral stories.
- Following a class discussion on the importance of storytelling, invite an Elder from a local First Nations, Métis or Inuit community to tell traditional stories to the class. If this is not possible, there are several online resources available.
From your school or local library, take out several books that recall First Nations, Métis or Inuit stories. See Appendix A for suggested books.
- After listening to the Elder (or reading the stories out loud to the class), hand out the Using Your Memory! (PDF 1.3 Mb) sheets. Explain that these questions are to see how much students remember from the stories they have just heard - they will not be graded on these questions. The goal of this exercise is for students to write down as much detail about the story as they can remember.
- After students have answered the questions, review the details of the story with the help of the class. You may find it helpful to list the following items on the chalkboard as they are mentioned by students:
- The names of the stories and the culture(s) they came from;
- The characters in each story;
- The lesson, message, etc. of each story.
- Ask students to write their own story and illustrate it. Suggest that they use a story their grandparents of parents have told them in the past. Post the stories on a classroom wall for all to read.
In the Turtle Island game you learned about items that First Nations, Métis and Inuit developed in the past (such as canoes, maple syrup and snowshoes), and that are still being used today.
Choose something first developed by First Nations, Métis or Inuit and answer the following questions:
- What did you choose? Describe it and its ORIGINAL purpose.
- How has the item you chose changed over time (Is it made of different materials? Is it prepared in a different way? Does it have a new purpose?)
- How is the item used today? (Where and when is it used? Who uses it? Why is it used?)
- Which book(s) did you use to find this information? (Title and Author).
Answer the following questions in paragraph form using the article you selected on a modern Aboriginal issue.
- What issue does this article report?
- Who is affected by this issue?
- Does the article identify the harm or benefit of the issue? What is the main message of the article?
- Does the article present one point of view, or several? Can you think of other points of view that were not mentioned?
- Who did the reporter/writer interview to get the information in the article?
- What do you think about the issue in this article? Did you know about it before you read this article?
Using Your Memory!
Traditionally First Nations, Métis and Inuit stories were told orally (out loud), and passed from person to person - it was very important to remember them because there was no alphabet to write things down.
Let's test your memory: answer the following questions the best you can from what you remember. Answer the same questions for each story.
- What was the story called? What culture was it from?
- Who were the people and animals in the story?
- Why is this story important? (Did it teach a lesson? Did it explain how something was made or born? Did it give helpful advice? Did it teach important spiritual beliefs?)
Appendix A: Resource List
The following books are resources that may be helpful for your students in completing their challenges:
- The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
By Diane Silvey
- Canadian Aboriginal Art and Culture Series
By Jennifer Nault
- Jason's New Dugout Canoe
by Joe Barber-Starkey
- The Inuit Thought of It
by Alootook Ipellie and David Macdonald
- Houses of Snow, Skin and Bones
By Bonnie Shemie
- Carving a Totem Pole
By Vickie Jensen